Today we have The Weeknd:
Here’s an example of how the world has changed in the past few decades: Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, releases three huge mixtapes (they’re not technically on tapes anymore but the principle remains the same) in 2011, essentially turning him into an underground smash hit and a pioneer of “PBR&B,” “hipster R&B” or whatever you ultimately want to call it.* The song above (and yes, it is essentially a single song) is arguably the best song from his first mixtape, and possibly one of his best period, and it goes a long way toward showing why he managed to get as popular as he did.
In 2012, he proceeds to release all three as one set, thus officially getting his name out into the world good and proper, and he tours like a crazy person to promote himself. In 2013, he releases a full-on studio album and a couple of tracks on the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This year, he did a song with Ariana Grande that featured a video which involves a lot of sand and basements, apparently.
Say what you will, but writing a song about snorting coke off of a table and fucking a girl in an apartment with an echo apparently ends with you doing a duet with a singer who came up through the Nickelodeon machine. Life is weird, man.
*It should be noted that Janelle Monae and Frank Ocean fall into this category, so you could essentially call it “R&B that nobody knows what to do with, since we used up the term ‘alternative’ back in the 90’s,” though that’s kind of long.
Jozen Cummings also (sarcastically) suggested the term “R&B that white people like,” but I’m pretty sure Dan O’Brien noted that Kanye West already owns the market on that genre, so I don’t know how well that’ll work out.**
**Yes, that’s meant to be entirely sarcastic; I just discovered a bunch of interesting links and wanted to fit them in somehow.